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Our Tribal Enemy Is Getting Stupid on Purpose
Richard Fernandez has remarked that the old left offered visions of a shining future of wealth and health for all in a socialist/communist utopia. In stark contrast, the modern left promises that we will feel perpetually guilty for the alleged crimes of our forbears, ride only bicycles, eat bugs, shiver in the winter—and learn to like it. He wondered if the seemingly eternal leftist temptation can survive if it has been reduced to telling the truth about itself.
How does it persist, especially in its current increasingly absurd form? As the litany of spectacularly stupid policies, gross failures, and silly ideological fetishes grows, why does anyone still align or identify with that set of inclinations?
We are witnessing a sacrificium intellectus on a massive scale as a new tribe slouches toward a replacement of religion as well as the elimination of the western intellectual heritage.
Who are these people and how did they get that way? Liberals are not organized around ideological positions anymore, so many positions are selected to serve tribal needs in the moment. We are not looking at people organized around older revolutionary ideas about actual oppression or actual injustice. This is something quite different.
Nate Silver, among others on that side, has admitted that loyalty to spectacularly wrong but militantly enforced notions like the theory of a natural (non-lab) origin for the COVID-19 virus was driven solely by a perception that the “wrong people” disagreed. It was pure tribalism as it was with all the various unjustified COVID mandates, absurd energy policies, bogus “science” about transgenderism, and divisive and factually wrong notions about race. Membership, loyalty, identity, and signaling within the tribe über alles.
This new phenomenon is not just the same tiresome narcissism of the 1960s. Denigrating all that preceded us, many Boomers bought into a silly self-congratulatory notion of youth. As an added bonus (or was it the goal all along?), decrying tradition, religion, culture, and heritage meant that those entities no longer had the moral standing or power to interfere with smoking dope, eschewing the draft, and getting laid. However, with the exception of a few tenured radicals, most of the rest of us “sold out” and did pretty well under Reagan. But the separation from traditional morals was not healed. In particular, the non serviam regarding sexual matters persisted.
The growing absence of substantive values is now called “tolerance.” The new upscale white leftist tribe is quietly (even if reluctantly) obedient to the demands of men wearing dresses and race hustlers, but gets loud and openly hostile against pro-lifers, traditional values asserted at school board meetings, and flag-waving patriots. The most powerful political and ideological movement in America is, in its essence, a tantrum to establish moral autonomy away from our rich American, Judeo-Christian cultural heritage.
The new tribal entity shares most of the same enemies list as traditional Marxism (church, family, property rights, constitutional democracy, etc.). But any recognizable revolutionary impulse is oddly tempered by a presumption that if the whole edifice is torn down, that would somehow be OK because one can still work from home and various diplomas will somehow guarantee an income and membership in a protected class. The weird mindset of immunity is shared by the entire tribe, from the super-rich at Davos to baristas with PhDs. Neither the effects nor any accountability for bad policy and wrong-headedness will ever come their way.
If the normals were to continue to endorse the kinds of opinions that accrue from common sense, experience, and culturally acquired wisdom (conservatives tend that way), then will the new tribe feel compelled to counter with increasingly dumb ideas and intensified fantasies of hordes of MAGA-hatted, Confederate flag-waving orcs in the hinterlands merely awaited the command of their Führer to arise? Apparently so.
For technological reasons alone, this ought to be a golden age for the USA. But instead, we mass-produce unhappiness and implement almost suicidally stupid policies. Almost by self-definition, the new tribe has made itself hostile to much that is good and true. Trying to accommodate their comfort levels and keep reality at bay is literally killing America. How much pain will be required to break up the tribe?Published in General
Leftism is not popular. Rather it has power. It controls all levers of influence in society. It doesn’t have to be popular, it just uses its power to push its ideas on society through every vector of influence until there is no longer any other way to think except the leftist way. The leftist way of thinking is broadcast through every loudspeaker and telescreen. Society is imperceptibly brainwashed.
An idea doesn’t have to be popular when power is used to mind-control the masses.
And while we are fighting amongst ourselves, there are real problems out there that need our work.
I think you’re leaving out a critical element, that the Left believes “because you deserve it.”
“Richard Fernandez has remarked that the old left offered visions of a shining future of wealth and health for all in a socialist/communist utopia. In stark contrast, the modern left…”
It is a huge difference. As one indicator, see this excerpt from something written in the 1930s by the Fabian socialist Sidney Webb, in which he praises what he calls ‘the machine age’. Soviet Communists and American New Dealers both loved their hydroelectric dams, today’s ‘progressives’ want to tear them down.
An early manifestation of the change can be found in Malvina Reynolds’ song Little Boxes, which dates from 1962.
Now is a golden age in terms of medical care. In the future MRIs and surgeries will only occur when the wind is blowing.
This underscores my perplexity with #Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, etc etc: Why now? My progressive friends are under the impression that there had been an increase in police killings of black men, that America was becoming more racist. There was zero evidence that it was, lots of evidence that it wasn’t, and so many things getting so much, and so obviously, better that it’s befuddling to regard what looks an awful lot like cultural suicide. There has never been a better time or place than right here and right now for a black, brown, Asian, L, G, B, T or QRST person to live. I feel like the Friar, remonstrating with the bitching Romeo on the way to Juliet’s tomb: What are you complaining about? This is all going just the way you wanted it to… There art thou happy?
A couple of quibbles. First “the left” that has power is not the left of Alger Hiss and commie-lovers. The modern left is probably more ideologically unified not out of zeal for the coming revolution so much as FOMO membership concerns. They are less interested in using media control for brain-washing as demonstrating the power to beat down the lesser types and to drown out that which might cause them to doubt their own wonderfulness. Again from Fernandez, the power of media control is the power to exclude more than message content. In communist countries, the media told everybody what the party line was even if nobody believed it. That is what NYT and WaPo do now.
The psychology of the groupthink that now possesses the American “elite” is the interesting question. East German rule was ultimately at the point of a Soviet tank muzzle. What holds the current clowshow together?
BLM and Antifa are artifacts. Rhetoric and half-assed scholarship intended to serve the narcissistic need to trash western civ and America in particular as it arises from the spoiled privileged ones have a different effect on the cognitively challenged. The losers who find a purpose in Antifa and BLM are like an accidentally formed corps of shock troops caused by really bad schools, drugs, broken families, and a convenient cartoon narrative of social justice that gives meaning to pretty damaged lives.
My guess would be status anxiety. One tiny step out of line and they’ll lose their “good person” status.
Plus maybe employment, housing…
I wonder how much of this is social media-driven. If you take a contrarian position in a dorm bull sessions with friends, who cares but do so online and you are marked for life.
That may have been true in the past, but is it still true now?
Technology is definitely fueling a lot of this. Years ago, when California had the marriage definition bill on the ballot, the campaign against keeping the traditional definition of marriage got really belligerent and used the donation records for the other side to publish names and addresses of the donors. It was fodder for the activists for years, in fact. I think that’s what felled the guy who created Mozilla years later, Brendan Eich.
Corporations are hiring firms to comb through all applicants’ social media posts going back years.
It’s not good.
The religion of current day progressivism has taught its members that the most important item in one’s life lies in obtaining the attribute of virtue.
Their religion is all about obtaining and flaunting “progressive virtue” all the time.
No human can obtain that virtue without willingly participating in ending any sort of decent life for white people, and Even members of the faiths of the Unity and Unitarian churches got aboard to insist on washing the feet of some anonymous black person to show their willingness to denigrate themselves.
(Lutheran, Methodist and other Protestant faiths also followed along.)
The followers of progressive teachings even loaded up their bodies with all required bio weapons. After all, what better way to show their courage and to embrace the mantra of “As a young person, I am not likely to experience COVID, but I am willing to do this for the elderly like my grandparents.”??
The members of this new religion have also enabled a system of censorship by which no one who doesn’t follow their teachings can even debate anything with them. The non-believer may have a better approach to race relations, to being healthy, and possesses more wisdom in their principles to maintaining rather than destroying a thriving economy, but any such debate is shut down by these virtue-seekers with the phrase: “But first we need to discuss your embracing Trump.”
I think I might say, “embrace him? I’ve never even met him!”
This is basically “post victory” behavior. You look all around and some major corporations are taking some blindingly stupid positions to appear woke. That can only be explained by those corporations feeling that the battle is over and woke is fait accompli. Many of us are saying, “What, you think the war is over?!” But the behavior of the progressives is that it is and only mopping up is required. We dearly need to demonstrate that they are wrong.
We are fortunate to live in the freest, richest and most powerful nation on earth and yet this is an accurate summary of life in the United States in 2023..
“we mass-produce unhappiness”
Life was simpler when all we had to fear was whether the survivors would envy the dead.
The dominant left is probably preparing for the “bayoneting the wounded” phase.
I think it is pretty simple; the left is willing to sacrifice your comfort and well-being for their own feeling of self-righteousness and moral superiority.
Another visit from the meme threads:
Great post, OB.
I have a follow-up question. My impression is that you consider “tribalism” and being “tribal” as a bad thing. I don’t think that you state this explicitly, but I infer it from the context of your use of these terms.
Do you think that tribalism is a bad thing? If so, why?
I’ve been coming to the conclusion that tribalism is unavoidable, and may be a good thing. It depends on the tribe.
I think that to look at the basis for the profound difference between conservative, and modern day leftist values, is to find clarity.
The flag waving conservative, every day working Joe, in this country, is a spirit of positive, appreciation of the core values that this country espouses.
This spirit is indicative of hope and optimism. Juxtaposed to the perpetually aggrieved, incessantly negative, hopelessness of the illiberal left.
One might ask why anyone, would want to wallow in a negative self-demoralizing paradigm? Trying to understand the mindset of somebody who wallows in pity, and incessant fear, is really an endless game. Understanding this seems unfathomable.
Power, money and success are what keeps the clown show together. If these are the keys to success, whatever tripe is being spouted is what those who crave power, money and success will spout.
Because conservatives are not revolutionary, are always trying to maximize wealth (tax cuts are a solution for everything) ignoring who and what the wealthy are, measure everything in terms of money and success and figure that those who are successful are successful because they deserve to be successful, they are bewildered and are unable to do anything effective about it.
If not “post victory” then perhaps a variant on the Pauling Kael effect–once you no longer encounter anyone with different views then you assume the great majority see things your way.
“Wokeness” in corporations is probably due to (a) lazy acceptance of deference to trans loons and racialist zealots as if it were no different than running an ad honoring black history month; (b) the presence of a cadre DEI commissars initially justified as an inoculation against lawsuits or bad publicity from discrimination charges; (c) hiring truly badly educated young people fresh from campus cognitive deformation who have been trained to grieve “issues” and (d) the drift of the wealthy CEO class toward the Democratic Party. None of that is likely to persist for the simple reason that wokeness is not good for the bottom line and the majority of customers and employees resent it.
Woke rule is rather fragile. I think it is quite possible for scenarios like this hypothetical to become suddenly commonplace:
The recent unfortunate program by our DEI staff to impose a bizarre guilt exercise on staff was unwarranted, divisive, and plainly offensive. The Board of Directors has approved the immediate termination of the DEI office. Acme corp. has never owned nor profited from slave labor, never had Jim Crow hiring practices, and has never persecuted unconventional sexual identities. We have always gone above and beyond our responsibilities to preserve the environment. The only reason for any of us at Acme to feel guilty is if we are not giving 100% to our customers and fellow members of the Acme family. If you feel unwelcome here, come talk to me as a friend.
I think you’re on to something. Plus when you denounce someone on social media you temporarily buttress your position among the “good people.”
Wouldn’t it be great! I would support companies that did this.
Social media functions a lot like an ongoing Nuremberg rally, providing identity through party membership.
I suspect that a lot of the corporate support for Wokeness is due to the influence of the spouses and children of the relevant executives.
The spouses will in most cases be women, who are more ‘progressive’-aligned on the average than are men…and the children, if college age, will likely be going to precisely the kind of colleges (and even prep schools) where Wokeness reigns.
Also..and partly reflecting the above…there is considerable fear by companies that they will lose younger people both as potential employees and as customers if they don’t reflect the proper Woke attitudes. Some of this is probably due to overgeneralizing the attitudes of their own kids.
Corporate HR is also filled with college grads who will use their position to push Wokeness on corporations.
There’s a reason everyone hates HR.
What are the numbers? How many are just “go along to get along” or “can’t afford to be cancelled”? Tribalism seems to be a very natural phenomenon but can “dumb” tribalism be sustained long enough to tear it all down?